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The Ol’ Yankees Playoff Push

The New York Yankees entered August in third place in the AL East at 55-48, behind the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox. Yankees fans had high expectations this year, and they were very disappointed to find their team fighting for a playoff spot with two months left in the season. The Yankees went out and got some big names at the trade deadline like Joey Gallo, Anthony Rizzo and Andrew Heaney, but the Yankees have caught fire in August because of the players they already had.

Anthony Rizzo started his Yankees career in a historic way, driving in a run in each of his first 6 games, but he has cooled off since then. Overall in August he’s really struggled at the plate with a 16 wRC+, but I think that is largely due to him missing time on the IL. I believe Rizzo will settle in and be a big contributor for the Yankees down the stretch and in the playoffs. Gallo has also struggled at the plate in August with a below average 96 wRC+, but he has reached base in all but 2 of the games he’s played for the Yankees. Similar to Rizzo, I think Gallo will improve offensively while also providing strong base running and defense. Andrew Heaney has been disappointing so far with a 6.23 ERA in 26 IP, but I think he is heading in the right direction. Heaney has good stuff, that’s never been a question, but he has struggled with command which has led to 9 HR’s in his 26 IP for the Yanks. Heaney is still striking batters out and limiting base runners, but he has to avoid the long ball. While he might not be a key part of the rotation, he can pitch well enough and contribute to this team’s playoff run. The Yankees trade deadline acquisitions haven’t gone as planned, but they will be important going forward and the Yankees have had plenty of players who picked up the slack.

The Yankees are firing on all cylinders in August with 125 runs scored and only 75 surrendered in 23 games. The offense has been led by Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu. Stanton has been on fire in August with 4 HR’s in his last 7 games and a 183 wRC+ for the month. Stanton can be streaky, but when he’s hot he can carry a team offensively. Voit has also been tearing the cover off the ball posting a 176 wRC+ so far in August. With those guys behind them, LeMahieu and Judge have set the table and made the offense roll. When Rizzo and Gallo get going, this offense could score even more runs and this will be a dangerous team entering October. The Yankees are also waiting for Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres to return from the IL. Any team putting up 5.4 runs a game has a chance to win and when you combine that with great pitching you end up winning a lot of games.

Nestor Cortes has been on fire this year

On the other side of the ball the Yankees pitching staff has limited opponents to 3.3 runs per game in August, giving them a +50 run differential for the month. The pitching staff has been led by starters Nestor Cortes Jr., Jameson Taillon, Luis Gil and Jordan Montgomery who have all posted ERA’s under 3.50 so far in August. Cortes has been a revelation for the Yankees this year, with a 2.56 ERA in 56.1 IP and he has continued to produce in August. Nestor has done a great job missing bats, limiting walks and keeping the ball in the park. Taillon has had his ups and downs this year, but he has definitely been up in August. In 22.2 IP this month Jameson has a 3.18 ERA and a 3.53 FIP with a 9.13 K/9. Gil was sent back down to the minors, but I believe he will be back in a Yankees uniform before the end of year considering his performance so far. Montgomery has also been pitching well recently with a 3.07 ERA in 14.2 IP in August. Gerrit Cole spent some time on the IL this month, but he has pitched well when he has been out there and will continue to be the Yankees workhorse going forward. The Yankees are also hoping to have Corey Kluber and Domingo German back at some point this year. The bullpen has been just as important as the rotation during the Yankees hot streak. Chad Green, Wandy Peralta, Jonathan Loaisiga and Albert Abreu have been nearly unhittable in August combining for a 1.35 ERA over 46.2 IP. Green has had some rough outings this year but he appears to be back to his usual dominant self. No one really batted an eye when the Yankees traded for Peralta earlier in the year, but he has yet to give up a run in 11.2 IP in August. Loaisiga is establishing himself as one of the best relievers in the league this year with a 2.30 ERA and a 2.38 FIP in 62.2 IP. In August, he has only given up one earned run over 11.1 IP and he looks like he is in the zone. Abreu has also been terrific out of the pen in August posting a 2.38 ERA in 11.1 IP. The Yankees have a surplus of good options in the bullpen and that will be an important factor in October.

The Yankees are looking for more October success

Since the Yankees lost the Field of Dreams game 9-8 to the Chicago White Sox on August 12th, they have reeled off 11 straight wins and are in position for a wild card spot. With a 19-4 record in August the Yankees are now 74-52 and it’s hard to imagine them not making the playoffs. With the Rays refusing to give up any ground in the division (15-6 in August), the Yankees are going to have to continue to play well on both sides of the to have a chance at winning the division. Fangraphs has the Yankees chances of making the playoffs at 93.9% and with all of the talent on their roster it feels like they are on their way back to playing October baseball.

Alex Gaffney

I'm a writer focused on the Yankees, Mets and Cubs. You can find me talking about all facets of baseball on Twitter @agaffney93

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